{Picture Book Review} LIFE by Cynthia Rylant & Brendan Wenzel

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

Ask any animal on earth,
what do you love about life?

(pgs. 1-2, US Hardcover Edition)

What happens when two Caldecott Honor Winners (one of which is also a Newbery Winner) team up to write a picture book? You get something as amazing and gorgeous as LIFE by Cynthia Rylant and Brendal Wenzel.

Last year, THEY ALL SAW A CAT by Wenzel was my favorite picture book of 2016. I was hoping it would win a Caldecott and so, so thrilled with its Honor. You can see my gush all over the book in my review here. The book is great for teaching kids to see situations differently, as well as teachers doing science lesson plays that show the way way animals see differently. I love the multiple messages in the book.

I was pleased to find out that LIFE also has more than one meaning hiding in its pages. It teaches about life and way everything grows. We love the life we have: Camels love the sandy desert, snakes love the grass, turtles love feeling the rain on their back. It subliminally teaches kids about finding their path in life, about more than one way to love something. We're teaching kids what life IS and how to navigate its murky waters as we grow up and evolve. It has a darker tone at times, too: If you think that everything is ending and thorny and dark  (Maybe a family member died or you're feeling depressed), never fear because you'll come out on the other side through the wild and everything will be okay again. But it's not done in a super-depressing way. It uses darker colors, and has sentences such as, "And if one day, it seems nothing beautiful will ever come your way again, trust the rabbit in the field and the deer who crosses your path."

I had the great honor of meeting Brendan Wenzel at BookExpo (BEA) this past June, which is when I had the opportunity to take a peek at this beautiful finished picture book a couple of weeks before it hit stores. He was really nice, and I asked him to autograph the book to my niece because I knew she'd want to read it again and again and see his beautiful illustrations. I was impressed that he took the time to draw her a lizard (who is in the book!). He even wrote her name in capital letters--and while it may not be intentional, at the time, she could only read her name in capital letters and was still working on lowercase. I love that he wrote in such a way that she could read what he wrote herself!

I'm already rooting for LIFE to win a Caldecott Award (or at least an Honor!) this coming January, because it's one of my favorite picture books of 2017 and I want to bring more attention and acclaim its way.

Here's a closer look at this beautiful picture book. You'll really get a feel for its beauty and some of the elements I mentioned earlier through this video:

YouTube Link

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: LIFE
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster
Received: For Review (BEA Edition)

Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel explore the beauty and tenacity of life. 

Life begins small, then grows… 

There are so many wonderful things about life, both in good times and in times of struggle. Through the eyes of the world’s animals—including elephants, monkeys, whales, and more—Cynthia Rylant offers a moving meditation on finding beauty around us every day and finding strength in adversity. Brendan Wenzel’s stunning landscapes and engaging creatures make this an inspiring and intriguing gift for readers of all ages.